One part of the nativity story that has always struck me as odd is how both the shepherds and kings, when they see baby Jesus in the manger, drop to their knees and worship him. They seem to recognise immediately that his helpless newborn has having the power, the destiny, to bring salvation to the whole world.
But why? And how do they see this?
Last night I watched an excellent documentary on Netflix called White Helmets. It tells the story of a rapid response rescue unit in Syria – a team of men who go to bombsites straight after the bombing and locate and dig people out of the rubble and save their lives.
A lot of the footage is moving. And the ‘White Helmets,’ as the men are called, show incredible courage, perseverance and humanity.
The post powerful scene is when we see them working on a site in Aleppo for about 16 hours. They are feeling exhausted and are ready to give up – when someone hears a baby cry. They are all immediately silent and listen. The baby’s cry is heard again.
And so, with renewed energy, they all start to dig again.
And eventually we see them pull a newborn baby out through a tiny hole in the rubble. It’s like the baby is being delivered, born again, from the rubble. Covered in dust, the baby is placed in the arms of his mother. And everyone weeps. One White Helmet says, ‘It was like this child was my child too.’
Later on in the film, we see the White Helmets with the same child two or three years later.
The child is now a toddler and the men, when they visit, kiss him and hold him up and delight in him. The boy, called Mahmoud, represents such hope for them. In fact, he embodies hope for them. Hope that, despite the daily hardship and danger they endure, despite the many colleagues and family members who have been killed either by bombs or in the rescue attempts, things will change. Just as baby Mahmoud was delivered from death and is now a healthy little boy, the Syrian people will be delivered from this war and find new life and peace.
In the Christian story, Jesus – despite early threats on his life from King Herod - grows up to show us who God truly is. To show us the love of God that is so deep it is willing to sacrifice all on the cross. And the amazing way that – out of that death – comes new life and hope on Easter Day.
Christians don’t just believe in a sentimental story about a baby in a manger. We believe that Jesus defied death and is alive today. We believe that - because we experience Christ alive and with us every day of our lives. Bringing us hope. Helping us carry on – bringing light into darkness, wherever we can.
I don’t know what the future holds for little Mahmoud. But, as I see the compassion and courage of the White Helmets in Syria risking their lives to save others, I see Christ at work in them. Of course, they do not identify as Christians. But the work they are doing could not be a better representation of what the Christian Gospel is all about.
Bringing light into darkness. Putting others’ lives first. And seeing the hope of all humanity embodied in an innocent child.
In the Christmas carol O Little town of Bethlehem, we sing ‘the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.’ In Jesus.
And this true.
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in the Christchild. And in those who walk the path of self sacrifice that He takes us on. The only path that leads to enduring peace.
To a peace which all our children can enjoy.
Posted by Martine Oborne